Jessica L. Ware

Jessica L. Ware


jware42 [at]



Office Location

415 Boyden Hall


I am interested in evolutionary and organismal biology, entomology, and phylogenetic methodology. My research focuses on the evolution of behavioural and physiological adaptations in insects, with an emphasis on how these occur in dragonflies and Dictyoptera (termites, cockroaches and mantodeans). In particular, I combine molecular tools with morphological, behavioral, biogeographical, and physiological information to develop a holistic understanding of each group. Dragonflies and damselflies are enigmatic, commonly observed insects with a wide range of unique behaviors. I explore two of the main activities in a dragonfly’s life: flying and mating. Dictyoptera are a well studied but unresolved group, with exceptional behaviors and symbioses. For these taxa, I am interested in the evolution of social behavior as well as in family-level phylogenetics.

Flight behavior and the biomechanics of wing venation. Flight plays a central role in feeding, reproduction, predator avoidance, and dispersal. Dragonfly flight has evolved for maximum performance, with some dragonflies exhibiting remarkable agility and others adapted for endurance. Some dragonflies engage in short distance flights from perching locations (“perchers”). Others fly for longer periods of time, or migrate (“fliers”). I am working to determine whether there are consistent differences between percher and flier wings.

Lower termite systematics. Termites (Isoptera) are unique social insects that are involved in a complex symbiosis with cellulose-digesting microorganisms residing in their hindguts. Although Isoptera have been the subject of several phylogenetic studies, most have focused on the Termitidae, and the systematics of “lower” termites (i.e., the five non-termitid families) remains in debate. A thorough phylogenetic analysis of basal termite relationships is crucial to our understanding of the evolution of significant isopteran features such as social behavior and gut-symbiosis. This line of research, will recover the first total-evidence phylogenetic hypothesis of Isoptera with a thorough, global sample of lower termite species and extant & extinct fossil data. Divergence estimation analyses, biogeographical analyses and ancestral-state reconstruction will allow us to evaluate the ecological conditions under which these fascinating organisms evolved.

Evaluating the future of rare Petaltails (Petaluridae). The dragonfly family Petaluridae (Insecta: Odonata) contains 11 extant species in five genera with a Pan-Pacific distribution. While cohorts within a site are isolated in time, populations of these species are also separated in space. With Dr. Chris Beatty, we are working towards a molecular phylogeny of the family Petaluridae, and use of this tree in analysis of phylogeography, life-history evolution and divergence times. With a National Geographic Society grant, are undertaking radiotracking and population genetic analysis of individuals in several populations of the petalurid species Tanypteryx hageni to study the dispersal and interrelatedness within and between larval habitats. Through these multiple lines of research, we hope to better understand the ecology, evolution and biogeography of the family Petaluridae. Petalurids are under threat from habitat alteration; some of these species are already considered endangered.

Systematics of the superfamily Libelluloidea. Libelluloidea is the most speciose group in Anisoptera, but its complicated phylogenetic history has been difficult to interpret. Non-wing based morphological datasets were found to be similarly prone to convergence. If increased speciation is linked to a reduction in the ovipositor, we may expect diversification rates to be highest in clades that diverged after the ovipositor was extremely reduced. Diversification rates suggested that some families at one time had higher acceleration of diversification than is presently observed. This might imply that these families were better adapted to previous environmental conditions, or that they were less able to compete for resources upon the divergence of the family Libellulidae.


Bachelor of Science in Invertebrate Zoology, University of British Columbia, 2001.

Ph.D. in Entomology, Rutgers University, 2008.


Ksepka, D.T., Ware, J.L., and K.S. Lamm.  2012.  Flying rocks and flying clocks:  Explaining discrepancies between fossil ages and molecular dates in birds.  Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 32: 124.

Ksepka, D.T., Benton, M.J., Carrano, M.T., Gandolfo, M.A., Head, J.J., Hermsen, E.J., Joyce, W.G., Lamm, K.S., Patane, J.S.L., Phillips, M.J., Polly, P.D., Van Tuinen, M., Ware, J.L., Warnock, R.C.M., and J.F. Parham.  2011.  Synthesizing and databasing fossil calibrations:  divergence dating and beyond.  Biology Letters 7: 801-803.

Thomas, J.A., and J.L. Ware.  2011.  The Northeastern Symposium on Evolutionary Divergence Time:  Fossil and molecular dating, a compatible match?  Entomologica Americana 117: 1-8.

Ballare, E.F., and J.L. Ware.  2011.  Dragons fly, biologists classify:  an overview of molecular odonate studies, and our evolutionary understanding of dragonfly and damselfly (Insecta: Odonata) behavior.  International Journal of Odonatology 14:  137-147.

Ware, J., Lal, S., Grimaldi, D. 2010. Mahogany-dwelling termites: a new species of Neotermes (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae) from Fiji. Entomologica Americana 116(1 & 2): 64-72.

Ware, J., Grimaldi, D., Engel M. 2010. The Effects of Fossil Placement and Calibration on Divergence Times and Rates: An example from the Termites (Insecta: Isoptera). Arthropod Structure and Development 38(2-3): 204-219. 

Ware, J. L., Simaika, J. P., Samways, M. 2009. Biogeography and divergence estimation of the relic Cape dragonfly genus Syncordulia: global significance and implications for conservation. Zootaxa 2216: 22-36.

Ware, J. L., Litman, J., Klass, K-D, Spearman, L. 2008. Relationships among the major lineages of Dictyoptera: the effect of outgroup selection on dictyopteran tree topology. Systematic Entomology, 33: 429-450.

Ware, J. L., Ho, S., Kjer, K. 2008. Divergence dates of libelluloid dragonflies (Odonata: Anisoptera) estimated from rRNA using paired-site substitution models. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 47(1): 426-32.

Ware, J. L., M. L. May, K.M. Kjer. 2007. Phylogeny of the higher Libelluloidea (Anisoptera: Odonata): an exploration of the most speciose superfamily of dragonflies. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 45(1): 289-310.